Can We Talk About Abortion?
Our churches and religious teachings reveal our primary agreement. Despite the stereotype of complete Christian opposition to abortion, most churches agree that it should remain legal, at least in some cases. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life surveyed Christian denominations and non-Christian religions for their beliefs on abortion and found virtual agreement. Almost every denomination condemns abortion as a method of birth control (the Unitarian and UCC churches make the most liberal allowances here toward choice); almost every denomination accepts that abortion should be available to preserve the health of the mother or in the case of rape or incest (the Southern Baptist Convention has perhaps the most restrictive view, limiting abortion to "those very rare cases where the life of the mother is clearly in danger").
But what this tells us again, is that there is wide agreement among people of faith that ought to prevent our thinking of "the opposition" as unchristian (Unbuddhist? Unhindu?). We can hold different views on the morality of abortion and all still be followers of Christ (Buddha? Ganesha?).
The truth is, we do agree more than we disagree. And I wish we could recognize that.
Can We Agree to Treat Each Other with Respect?
In the course of about eight hours of comment on my abortion article, I was called un-Christian, a murderer, and accused of championing a shrieking horde of animals—the Texas women (and some men) who shouted down SB 5 in the first special session. Other pro-choice writers who supported my position on rare but legal abortion were likened to Nazis—or accused of practicing eugenics. And, for their part, on this question and others, liberals are often guilty of calling conservatives with whom they disagree some pretty disagreeable things—"uneducated moron" is a good representative sample, regardless of the degree of education on either side of the conversation.
This isn't a good rhetorical ploy to change someone's mind. And it isn't very nice, for anyone. As my friend Tricia Mitchell observed, the effects of this approach are all negative: "I have been reduced, I have been judged, I have been served and schooled." When I call you names or treat you as though you're not very smart, all you are going to feel is negative—about yourself, about me, and about my position and all those who hold it.
Trying to see my opponent as God sees him or her leads me to a shattering revelation: the person with whom I disagree is beloved by God. The person who attacks me is beloved by God. Even the person who cannot see the obvious logic of my argument and RESPONDS IN ALL CAPS is beloved by God.
In any case, I am commanded by my faith to love all persons and to treat them with respect. So are you; compassion is the core spiritual practice in every wisdom tradition. I'd honestly rather not remember this. It is easy to love those who are most like us. But to love those who differ from us—that is the acid test of our faith and practice, and it is where we have to do the right thing.
Greg Garrett is the author of works of fiction, criticism, and theology, including Faithful Citizenship from Patheos Press. He is Professor of English at Baylor University, and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church.